How do you say “party time” in French? One way is “l’heure de la fête”. Another, it appears, is “Cap sur le Pacifique”—or Canada Goes Pacific, a giant, free celebration of Canada 150 set to take over Granville Island.
Presented by the Centre Culturel Francophone de Vancouver, the three-day fete aims to put its own multicultural spin on Canada 150. Not only will musicians, dancers, and other acts hit the outdoor and indoor stages, there’ll be a terrace bar, food trucks, and grand-scale street performers animating the public spaces, with lawn chairs and umbrellas for relaxing throughout the site.
“You can come to the site at 12 noon and stay till 1 in the morning,” enthuses executive producer and programmer Isabelle Longnus, speaking to the Straight over the phone, adding that DJs spin tunes every afternoon on La Terrasse 150 and then cap off Friday and Saturday night at Studio 1398.
The other programming is a wildly diverse array of acts that draws on the Asia-Pacific francophone connection. Coming from farthest afield are dancers from New Caledonia, many of whom mix traditional South Pacific Kanak styles with influences like slamming and hip-hop.
Elsewhere, look for Sonido Pesao’s urban Latin rap, care of members from Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, and Quebec; the Afro-Colombian percussion of Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra; and the Asian-inflected music of Vietnamese-Canadian Montrealer Huu Bac Quach and his quintet.
The linking factor? Longnus says it’s definitely a sense of celebration, and of course the use of French. “It’s just to show the diversity of the francophone language and how it goes all over the place,” she says of her programming. “I went with my heart. ‘Let’s do something fun,’ and the freedom in that!
“Language is not just words; it’s a culture and it’s a sensitivity,” adds Longnus, who is herself a francophone rock singer. “Artists have no frontiers.”
With that in mind, the third night wraps with a unique collaboration called Arbre de Vie, or Tree of Life, in which Indigenous singers, musicians, and dancers from Canada and New Caledonia work on a “hymn to the future”, under the direction of Quebec Innu singer Florent Vollant and his band. The idea, Longnus stresses, is to bring artists together to create, not just to perform. Visitors will be able to look in on the process during daytime sessions before the piece debuts the final night of the fest.
But perhaps Canada Goes Pacific’s most defining feature will be its giant-puppet street performers. The roster includes Montreal’s Chasseurs de Rêves, whose Oiseaux (Birds) finds the circus artists (many of whom have worked for Cirque du Soleil) operating big, long-necked metal creatures. The U.S.’s Big Nazo, meanwhile, takes puppetry to even greater extremes, bringing to life huge monsters, aliens, and other crazy beasts in its three-dimensional foam-and-fabric creations.
“Street art is as important as the art on the stage,” Longnus says. In other words, it’s a key ingredient in parfait party time.
Canada Goes Pacific runs from Friday to Sunday (July 21 to 23) at Granville Island and the Centre Culturel Francophone de Vancouver.